Earlier this week, introducing his plan to reduce roadway deaths, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg declared that “every driver, passenger, and pedestrian should be certain that they’re going to arrive at their destination safely, every time.” This was anodyne rhetoric, and in the scheme of things, it probably actually was harmless. But harmless rhetoric can be revealing, and this statement revealed a continued erosion of our understanding that there are limits and tradeoffs involved in most facets–make that “every” facet–of political life. There is a way to reduce roadway deaths to zero. It is to reduce the speed limit to 5 … Continue reading A 5 mph Speed Limit?
I appreciate Charles Zug’s reply to my post on endurance and the canon. Charles writes, correctly, that ideas can persevere either because they have value or because they serve the interests of powerful groups oppressing less powerful ones. He observes, by way of example, that John C. Calhoun’s and George Fitzhugh’s defenses of slavery were expressions of naked self-interest. That is unquestionably right. But two points are worth noting. One is that the odious “positive good” argument for enslavement did not endure. Calhoun first made it in an 1837 Senate speech. Even fellow southerners like Virginia’s William Cabell Rives found … Continue reading In Defense of the Enduring: A Reply to Charles Zug
I appreciate, and generally agree with the conclusions of, Ben Kleinerman’s recent post on the universal relevance of great books. But I would take issue with one point. Ben writes: It is insufficiently appreciated that the Western Tradition isn’t simply the preserve of old white men dedicated to the preservation of what’s old merely because it’s what’s old. At its worst, “tradition-preservers” defend it on those grounds. Those grounds, however, are both insufficient as a defense and insufficient even as an explanation for why we should take it seriously. I am unaware of traditionalists who seek to preserve what is … Continue reading Endurance and the Canon
Matt Bai has an excellent column at The Washington Post on the dilemma Dr. Deborah Birx faced during the Trump Administration, especially in the early days of the pandemic: Unvarnished truth would have made her unable to mitigate the worst impulses of the president and his yes-men, while her participation gave a scientific veneer to policies she now says may have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The dilemma is genuinely difficult, and casual condemnation of Birx is a bit too easy. But I think Bai (who treats the dilemma seriously) ultimately has it right: Birx should have resigned. The … Continue reading To Mitigate or to Resign?
The conventional wisdom is that partisanship fuels polarization. In the spring issue of National Affairs, I have an essay suggesting that honorable partisanship might actually provide a way out. On this reading, partisanship is a reflection of polarization. Polarization, in turn, reflects the fact that we have not persuaded one another of our ideas. Properly conceived parties can be vehicles for persuasion. By contrast, hopes for “post-partisanship,” which I trace to Hobbes and Bolingbroke, are rooted in discomfort with disagreement in politics. Honorable partisanship descends from Edmund Burke’s emphasis on partisanship as rooted in friendship, which in turn is based … Continue reading Honorable vs. Unhealthy Partisanship
Aurelian Craiutu is Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author, most recently, of A Virtue for Courageous Minds: Moderation in French Political Thought, 1748-1830 (Princeton University Press, 2012) and Faces of Moderation: The Art of … Continue reading Prudence and the Future of Conservatism
Ben Kleinerman and George Thomas have eloquently said what most needs saying about yesterday’s unspeakable events. There is not yet enough distance to process them soberly. But a preliminary thought: The insurrectionists’ chant, and apparent self-justification, as they plowed through security barriers, scaled walls and smashed windows of the U.S. Capitol, was “Our House!” Never mind whether they act that way in their own homes. The question is: Whose house, exactly? This was an “our” contraposed to a “them”: real Americans versus traitors, with the latter category encompassing not only 81 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden but also, evidently, the millions more who … Continue reading Insurrections and Abstractions